Parking Minimums – Boring But So Important
“Hey who wants to talk about Parking Minimu….zzzzz”
Parking Minimums. Can you even hold the words in your head without having the urge to check Instagram? What are these boring parking minimums and why do they matter?
Ever since a time when councillors were called aldermen and TV had three channels, if you build a new building or start a new business, you are required, forced, to reserve spots on your land for the cars that will most (!) certainly (!) (in a dry English accent!) drive to the new destination you have created. After all, there are free parking spots provided at great cost to the public on the street, and if the law doesn’t force everyone to put parking on their private land, said street parking might be ever so slightly harder to find.
Scenario: Sally buys a piece of land in the middle of the city (think McCauley). The home is next to a major bus route. She works downtown, doesn’t own a car, and plans to walk, bus and take the occasional taxi year round for all trips. It’s a small older home, and she would like to develop a basement suite in the basement for her father, who also doesn’t drive. As the law currently stands, the state will intervene in her affairs and force her to develop two parking spots on her property. That’s right, two parking spots for zero cars.
Parking minimums are absurd, wasteful, sprawl-causing monsters. They waste land, subsidize cars, and reduce green space.
The USA has 3 – 8 parking stalls for every one of its motor vehicles (I don’t know why I say cars anymore, most of these are trucks), and Edmonton is most certainly in the same boat. In fact, I double dog dare you to find a window within eye shot that you can’t see some parking from. Am I right? Sit down Kevin you’re in a treehouse in Laos right now but everyone else is in Edmonton looking at a bunch of parked SUVs.
Parking minimums cause carbon emissions by:
- Encouraging driving. The easier it is to find free parking, the more people will drive. Full stop.
- Paving over green space. Instead of parking spots, we could have trees or grass or gardens or anything that grows in soil and sequesters carbon.
- Making carbon-efficient urban living more expensive. When the state forces households and businesses to build parking, it makes everything more expensive, but the effects are more severely felt in dense areas where space is at a premium (because of a higher cost of land generally, and the need to build underground parking, which is absurdly expensive).
- Creating a less walkable and bikable city. The sea of parking surrounding so many buildings are unpleasant to navigate, create larger travelling distances, and are not human-scaled.
Parking minimums are some of the worst urban policy every created. They have acted as an invisible force, creating large dead spaces that reduce urban vibrancy. Enough.
We Can Eliminate Parking Minimums This Month
On January 28, city council is making a decision on parking minimums. There are three options on the table, and only one of them is the right one for the climate:
- Full Implementation of Open Parking Option (no parking minimums anywhere, as of now)
- Phased approach to Open Option Parking (a slow, phased-in approach to abolishing parking minimums)
- Zone-based Parking Minimums
The most climate-friendly option is #1, Full Implementation of Open Parking. There is no reason except for irrational fear to phase it in (option 2), and option 3, keeping parking minimums, would be grounds for a climate sit-in. I don’t think council will go with #3, but there is some talk of them choosing the very “Edmonton” phased-in option (#2).
We’re in a climate emergency here, we need some courage from city council.
Please, act on climate today. Use the email tool below to send your councillor and the mayor a quick message (personalized is best so if you can, add your own note).